Garnaut on the built environment

12 March, 2008

The Garnaut Review today released Issues Paper 5 – Transport, planning and the built environment

The information contained therein seems to be generally sensible, and I think it is particularly worthwhile for the architecture profession to take note of the fact that buildings are responsible for 23% of Australia’s GHG emissions. This figure does not however include the emissions from the construction and renovation of said buildings. This also compares to transport being responsible for 14% of Australia’s GHG emissions (private cars are responsible for 7%, though this is rising).

What I do find interesting, in fact somewhat worrying, is the fact that 5.5 pages are dedicated to transport and planning, whilst 2.5 are dedicated to buildings, which seems out of whack with their respective emissions impact.

Something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned (given the market focus of the report) as a  way to reduce built environment emissions was the disclosure of  a building’s energy rating when it is sold or leased. How are people supposed to make rational spending choices without all of the relevant information?


Eco, schmeco

7 December, 2007

The UK’s new scheme to build a bunch of ‘eco-towns’ is being criticised as being totally stupid. the basic criticism is that you can’t say something is ‘eco’ just because it has lots of insulation, and you especially can’t say it is eco if you have bulldozed a bunch of trees to get at the land to build it on and that land is miles from anywhere else. Der.

An economist pointed out a while ago that the best way for a small town to become ‘green’ was actually to move to London. Because of the density of London, the people that live there emit 40% less GHG than the national average, whilst the inhabitants of the town emit 25% more.

I tried to argue for the benefits of density with a committed Green a while ago, in the wake of protesting against some truly badly designed new development nearby, only to find out that density just didn’t fit with this person’s idea of green. Not enough mud bricks, vegie patches or hemp it seemed.

Architects vote too

14 November, 2007

An interesting addition to the Festival of Silliness that is the current federal election campaign is the RAIA’s party poll on issues affecting architecture and the built environment.

Basically, they’ve provided a bunch of statements to the parties and asked them to respond. So far only the Greens and the Coalition have gotten back to them it seems. There is so much bloody spin in the Coalition’s response that I could barely read it without feeling ill (from the dizziness you know), though I think they basically said that they wouldn’t give any money to the Venice Biennale. But they do quite clearly and in all seriousness quote a Demographia study, so they’re obviously a pack of simplistic morons. And the Greens, jeez, why can’t they work out how to print to PDF? They also want to “promote a distinctly Australian style” within architecture. Which sounds a) impossible and b) like jingoistic crap.

The RAIA has also created three BBQ Stopper Podcasts (their term, not mine), which seem to be recorded panel discussions, on the topics of housing affordability, sustainability and nation building. Will have to investigate further and report back, because I am in fact going to a bbq this weekend, so I’ll see if shouting something from the podcasts gets everyone to shut up and stop eating.

Tarting up the towers

2 November, 2007

The Victorian Housing Minister, Richard Wynne, yesterday announced competitions to tart up the Footscray commission flats and design new low-to-medium density public housing in Dandenong. The Footscray competition is called Tower Turnaround and the Dandenong competition is called Living Places. They’re approved by the RAIA and the total prize pool is $135 000. Though it isn’t really prize money when you have to work for it, it’s remuneration.

There seems to be a lot of consternation about the ugliness of the towers, people invariably want to knock them down, but even though I don’t disagree about the ugliness, I’m really glad that the Vic Government is going to renovate them instead. Simply because you can house so many people in those tower blocks, and ugly shelter is much better than no shelter. I’m glad too that they’re building more public housing, because everyone is aware of the expense of buying a house, but there are plenty of people who don’t even have the money to rent because rents have gone up so much.

Pholiota for sale

31 October, 2007

The Griffin’s own house in Eaglemont is for sale (from $770k).

According to the blurb, the 1922 house has an ‘Art Deco’ addition. I think someone might want to send the copywriter a book on historical styles because somehow I don’t think angled blonde timber panels are a  particularly deco  feature. It isn’t a great extension in my opinion, don’t think it pays enough attention to the Burra Charter, specifically “22.2 New work should be readily identifiable as such”, which really is a very good recommendation.

5 star treatment for everyone

26 October, 2007

it was announced today by the Building Commission that from May next year, all domestic renovation and extension work will include bringing the house up to a 5 star energy efficiency rating, press release here.

this is really a much more important step than introducing 5 star for new homes, simply because the vast majority of homes in Victoria are not new, but we do love to renovate. though it will still be pretty hard to make the argument for energy efficiency on the basis that it will save you money when greenhouse gas emissions are free and thus coal fired electricity remains so amazingly cheap.

aus mod houses

23 October, 2007

there’s a new book coming out next month 50/60/70: Iconic Australian Houses which looks pretty damn good, great photos and plans.

possibly the best thing about it though is that it isn’t seemingly aimed at the standard audience, i.e., it isn’t preaching to the choir (us). it is written by the editor of one of those cushion chucker style interior/design magazines, which contain most of the architectural knowledge that the australian general public will ever be exposed to. which i think says more about architects than the general public really.

also, it is published by murdoch books so it will get out to more than 3 bookshops.

as wonderful as books like Houses for the 21st Century are, they’re unlikely to reach a wide audience, which is something that i think 50/60/70 may well be able to do. and in doing so might be able to introduce a whole lot more people to the wonderfulness that was Modern domestic architecture in australia.